I shall refer just to the undocumented aspect. Clearly these people cannot get in without documentation and the appropriate visa. However, we have had plenty of evidence showing that the last time that some of these people see their documentation is when they come into the country. Their passports are whisked away from them as they leave the airport and they never know when they will see them again.

On Second Reading I asked if I could see the card, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred, that is given to people who come in as domestic workers. Bear in mind that they may not speak much English and do not always come from articulate families, and that they may not be able to read or write. The card is headed:

“Know your rights when working in the UK”—

a starter for 10. It says:

“Your employer should give you a written contract of your terms and conditions”—

fine. It continues:

“If your employer provides you with accommodation, they are allowed to deduct up to £5.08 per day from your wages. No other deductions can be made by them unless you agree to it in writing first, and even then you should still be paid at least the UK minimum wage”.

It also says:

“You have the right to be safe at work”,

which of course they have. In the next section, “Help and advice”, it says:

“For advice on pay and work rights”,

they should ring a number. Then it states:

“If you are being forced to work or your employer isn’t willing to respect your rights”,

ring another number; and:

“If you are in immediate danger call the emergency services”.

Half these people have had not only their passports but their phones taken away. They have no access to phones. They have no ability to ring any of those numbers.

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I do not know the answer to this aspect of the problem. I recognise that this is the Border Force’s way of trying to get some information to people as they come in. I have not made any inquiries about how it is handed out, but if it is just plonked in somebody’s passport—a passport that is then taken away—as they come in, that is of no use whatever. If they do manage to hang on to it, if they need it at some stage, one hopes that somebody will be able to tell them what it means—but that person is not going to be the employer, because that is the person they would be trying to complain against.

I am afraid that I have gone on rather too long about how badly I feel about all this. My question to the Minister is: when these people come in—they come in on specific visas, so they are perfectly identifiable—does the Border Force interview any of them before handing them this leaflet, to try to find out whether they understand what is going on? Otherwise we are doing nothing with the leaflet, other than playing a game by saying, “This is how we are welcoming you, and this is what you should do”, when they do not understand.

I am sure that the Minister will listen carefully to this. The changes made in 2012 have clearly had a very adverse impact. I understand why some of them were made—in immigration legislation, for example—but on the other hand, we are not talking about huge numbers; these are just miserable people.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I fully support the amendment—as the Minister knows, because I told him some time ago. I take the view that the recent change in the visa for domestic servants is shocking, because it puts a relatively small number of people into an utterly impossible situation. They can choose either to continue to be a slave, or to be deported. That is just not acceptable.

However, if the Government are not disposed to do anything effective about the visa, they might be interested in some discussions that I have had with the creative and inventive researcher of Frank Field MP. He has come up with an analogy that the Minister might just find interesting. Women who come over here with a marriage visa and become the victims of domestic violence are entitled to what is called a DDV—destitution and domestic violence—concession. This concession allows them three months’ access to public funds while their cases are being sorted out by the Home Office, with a view to deciding whether they will be given the right to remain here, or whether, after those three months, they will have to go back.

I ask the Minister, at the very least, to say whether there is not a very close analogy between such a domestic servant and a woman coming over here with a marriage visa who then has to leave home because of domestic violence. Goodness me, some of the violence that women in domestic servitude suffer is probably worse than the domestic violence suffered by a woman who has come over with a marriage visa. I suggest that three months is too short a period for a victim of slavery, so I ask the Minister to consider the marriage visa and see whether the same conditions could apply, by analogy, to the visa for domestic servants. I ask for

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six months instead of three months for these women to sort themselves out, and for their cases to be sorted out by the Home Office. If at the end of six months they had to go back, that would be a rather different situation, because they would have had some time at least, with public benefit, to try to see what their future lives might be. The marriage visa analogy may not be as good as some other means, but I urge the Minister at least to look at it as a possible alternative.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, a powerful case has been made for the amendment, and I simply want to add my support. This is such an important issue, which goes to the heart of what the Bill is about. The Minister, in his letter to Peers after Second Reading, said that he shared noble Lords’ determination to stamp out all forms of modern slavery, including abuse of domestic workers. That is a welcome aspiration, which has been repeated in various forms in various places.

The centrality of this issue to the Bill is underlined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. On the basis of studies that it has funded, it writes that,

“there is most risk of forced labour where an individual’s work visa is tied to a particular employer. The most commonly cited example is the situation of overseas domestic workers who, since 2012, are again no longer allowed to change employers within the same category and hence become trapped in abusive situations”.

Evidence of the effects of being so trapped is, as we have heard, provided by organisations such as Kalayaan, which works with overseas domestic workers. I pay tribute to its work. Kalayaan argues that all the available evidence suggests that the change in the visa,

“has facilitated their exploitation and abuse, including trafficking”.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has said, Kalayaan details numerous ways in which the abuse experienced by overseas domestic workers who register with them has worsened since the change in the rules.

In their response to the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, the Government suggested that the previous rules “potentially encouraged abuse” because they enabled employers to bring domestic workers to this country for longer periods. Do the Government have evidence of such abuse? Or is this a hypothetical potential, which needs to be set against the actual evidence of abuse that has happened since 2012? In that time, as we have heard, abuse and exploitation has got much worse. It should also be set against the fact that the pre-2012 regime was cited by both the ILO and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants as best practice. As the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has observed, this was one reason why the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, regarded,

“the removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step in the protection of migrant domestic workers.

We recommended that the Bill should be amended to reinstate the pre-2012 position.

Given the clear evidence of how the removal of that protection has facilitated abuse, given the Government’s own commitment to stamp out abuse of overseas domestic workers, and given that I feel both Ministers are reasonable people, I hope that they will feel able to take this amendment away, think again, and bring forward their own amendment before Report.

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Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab): My Lords, I conducted an inquiry into trafficking for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, and it was extended beyond sexual trafficking to migrant workers and domestic servitude. I went to Scotland imagining that it was unlikely that I would come across cases of domestic servitude, because the experience I had had in this field had usually been in the diplomatic area, when ambassadorial families had brought to this country people who had then fled the domestic setting, claiming serious abuse. But one of the things that came to light was a particular case involving a very wealthy family who had businesses in Scotland but had originally come from the Indian subcontinent. They would regularly bring young girls from back home, where their relatives still lived, to Scotland to work for them and care for their children. We can well understand any family wanting to have someone to care for their children who, for example, speaks the language of the place they come from, can continue certain traditions, and can cook in a style that the family might find more appealing.

The shocking thing was that the young woman had fled from the home of this family and given an account similar to the ones that we have heard—sleeping on the kitchen floor on a mat, not being allowed out of the house, not having access to her passport, and so on. But it was even worse than some of the circumstances that we have heard, in that her family back home were the people who received payment, directly from accounts presumably kept alive back in Bangladesh. The problem was that she did not have access to money; she only discovered that she might have rights because, on one occasion when the family allowed her to accompany the children to the park, she met someone else from back home, who had a discussion with her about her circumstances and her rights. It was through the intercession of the other person that, in fact, police went to her house and the girl’s circumstances were discovered.

6 pm

The circumstances extend beyond those that we might have imagined. It came as a surprise to me that, even in Scotland, there were families living very wealthy and comfortable lives, with people living in their households who are available day and night to rise and to care for their children and to prepare food in the wee small hours, when the father came home very late at night from business. This girl’s life was a misery, and she was frequently beaten by the wife of the family. I think that there are some serious circumstances here that we have to address, and I am not convinced by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others that the circumstances that existed prior to 2010 were really much more effective. However, I am attracted to the suggestion from the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that we could look at the analogy with the special provisions made for women who come to marry in this country, who are then met with abuse, because of the difficulty in returning immediately to their families. There are analogies there, and some creative thinking by government and others involved in this could find a remedy for those who are so severely abused.

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Baroness Kennedy of Cradley (Lab): My Lords, I, too, add support for the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. This is a very important issue, affecting a group of extremely vulnerable workers, so it is right and fundamental that it forms part of the Bill. The change to the overseas domestic workers visa back in 2012, tying domestic workers to their employer, was too heavy-handed a response when you look at the number of domestic workers involved and the vulnerability of those workers. In 2010, visas issued to domestic workers accounted for just 6% of all employment-related visas issued. At the time of the change, the Government argued that this visa was a route to settlement that was abused. However, very few overseas domestic workers were granted the right to settle; between 2006 and 2010, an average of just 700 domestic workers a year were given the right to settlement. That figure taken as a percentage of the 2013 settlement figures represents less than 0.5%.

I understand, as the Government will argue, that because of their isolated working conditions this group of workers was vulnerable to, and suffered, abuse before the change in visa rules. But the research by Kalayaan, as others have said, has shown that abuse and exploitation has increased as a result of the new visa rules, figures that the Minister in the other place made clear are not disputed by the Government. This visa change has created the perfect storm, with work carried out in isolated conditions, employers having excessive power afforded to them and a legal system that offers absolutely no protection. It is therefore unsurprising that the abuse has increased.

The Minister will no doubt talk about having stronger pre-entry checks, a stronger written contract with explicit terms and conditions and more information given to overseas workers on their rights but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, the effectiveness of those provisions has yet to be proven in practice. Also, these actions are not mutually exclusive to any other action; it is not a choice between stronger support mechanisms or a change in the visa rules—we should be doing both.

The amendment has a lot of support inside and outside this Chamber. Three parliamentary reviews have supported a change to the visa situation for overseas domestic workers. I hope that the Government can support it too, and include this amendment, or a version of it, in the Modern Slavery Bill.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it happens here—it happens even in Scotland, as we have heard, that most civilised country.

A number of noble Lords have used words such as “unimaginable” but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, I can only too well imagine the card—and I share her concerns about the card itself—being slipped into the passport as it is handed over. Of course, the passport is then very often taken by the employer.

I do not want to repeat the very powerful speeches made by so many noble Lords. I was grateful to hear from a number of people, including, most strongly and emphatically, from the three workers themselves to whom the noble Baroness referred, and at the meeting that she organised with Virginia Mantouvalou,

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who has written a report. Clearly, it is far too long to read here, but one thing particularly struck me. She gives the history of the overseas domestic worker visa and the diplomatic visa. When the concession was originally introduced, it was from concern to enable workers who had been with a family overseas to come here. The comment was made that it was for “a humanitarian reason”—to look after the domestic workers—and look where we have got to.

At that meeting, Kate Roberts from Kalayaan explained how her organisation could no longer help workers who managed to find their way to it, which must be a tiny percentage, because the organisation has to explain the problem with the Immigration Rules. Indeed, it often cannot help because of threats from employers to workers about criminalisation.

A number of noble Lords have also said that we must remember the realities. Measures such as dealing more effectively at the port of entry are important, but they are not enough. One thing that occurs to me on that is that, at the border on exit, when there is suspicion that a girl is being taken abroad for a forced marriage—the border officials are trained to recognise this—there are arrangements whereby they can be taken aside to be interviewed. The noble Baroness is right to point to that. I do not see why it should not happen in the other direction. We need to think about the realities. What people seem to be able to do to get around formal systems is almost beyond our imagining, and it is the realities that we need to fix on.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I happen to have been involved with this situation, which allows serious abuses of incoming domestic workers to happen, since the early 1990s. I have never known such universal support for the need for a reform as we have heard today. I leave it at that.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, the name of my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon is attached to this amendment. I certainly do not wish to speak at any length, because the arguments have already been made, but I shall reiterate one or two things. Under the tied visa system, introduced in the changes in 2012 to the Immigration Rules, overseas domestic workers who are being exploited no longer have the option of seeking other employment to get away from an employer who is exploiting them since they are tied to their employer for a non-renewable period of six months. Under the tied visa system, people who are being exploited are normally not willing to go to the relevant authorities because they fear that, if they leave their employer, the outcome will be that they will be deported as an immigration offender. If they are being paid anything at all—evidence suggests that more than 60% may not be—they will lose what may be a source of income being sent to support dependants in their own country.

One would have thought that the Government would have wanted to abolish the current tied visa system for overseas domestic workers, since tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse, as has been said already, and precludes acting decisively to protect victims of modern slavery. Of course, as

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also has already been said, it is unrealistic for such domestic workers to take any kind of legal action against an employer who potentially has trafficked them, exploited them and denied them their most basic rights while still living in the home of their employer.

The impact assessment that accompanied the 2012 changes stated that the ability of these workers—that is, overseas domestic workers—to change employer and access the UK labour market was,

“contrary to general Government policy on low skilled migration”.

However, the impact assessment also acknowledged the,

“vulnerability to abuse and exploitation”,

of these workers. I do not know whether the Government’s resistance to date to going down the road of this amendment is related, in the light of that comment in the 2012 impact assessment, to a view that it would lead to an increase in immigration. Perhaps the noble Baroness could say what, if any, increase in immigration the Government believe there would be if the amendment that we are debating is adopted. Reversing the 2012 changes for the overseas domestic worker visa would, at the very least, allow organisations and agencies to remove a worker from an abusive employment situation immediately. It also would enable the abuse to be reported to the police without fear that the victim would be deported as a result and that, in turn, would facilitate the prosecution of modern slavery offences, which, surely, is the purpose of the Bill we are now discussing. I hope that, in responding, the Minister will take account of what has been said far more eloquently than I can manage by so many of your Lordships in this Committee today.

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for introducing this amendment and speaking with such eloquence and acknowledge her expertise and campaigning work in this area. Holding anyone in modern slavery is totally unacceptable; I am sure that, around the Committee, we can all agree on that. Overseas domestic workers, like anyone else, deserve protection from modern slavery and support and help if abuse takes place. Noble Lords around the Committee have raised passionate concerns about some of the appalling situations that people find themselves in.

I shall set out why the main issue is not the nature of the visa that somebody has. Through both the Bill and wider policy changes, we will seek to provide protection to anyone who needs it, regardless of their employment type or any visa they may have. Obviously, we are focusing here on overseas domestic workers and seeking to strengthen their protections further.

The best way to prevent an abusive working relationship from being brought to the UK is to test its genuineness before a visa is issued. A number of noble Lords have raised these issues. Private household employers must prove to immigration officials that they have a pre-existing employment relationship of at least 12 months with their domestic worker, for example by providing pay slips or work records. All individuals applying to come to the UK on an overseas domestic worker visa must also provide evidence with their application that they

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have agreed in writing the core terms and conditions of their employment in the UK. That helps to establish that the worker is employed under terms that they find acceptable and allows us to ensure that these are appropriate. The evidence is to be provided in the form of a prescribed template—although, of course, I hear from around the Committee the concerns that these documents will not be adequately and legally kept to. The requirement for a written statement of key terms and conditions has been in place only since April 2012 and we believe that it could be improved to reflect international best practice. Officials have been working on a revised template to try to ensure that both employers and employees have an opportunity to see what standards are expected on both sides before workers come here and that they are aware of rights and responsibilities, including, sections on passport retention, sleeping accommodation and all the other things that noble Lords have mentioned, which so often are open to abuse.

6.15 pm

As part of the visa issuing process, as has been mentioned, the Home Office has started a trial, through the Border Force, of handing personally to workers as they come in the form that tells them what their entitlements are. These forms are not just in English, which obviously would be of very little use to many of them. I agree that it is possible that they are snatched away by the employers and put in a passport, but this is the first step of making sure that workers will have in their hands documentation about what they are entitled to if they come to work in this country.

There are further protections in place for workers who are trafficked into the UK or exploited in the UK. If they are suspected to be victims of trafficking they can be reported to the national referral mechanism. There are mechanisms such as victim care contracts and, of course, they are entitled to legal aid if they are victims of trafficking. They will be granted a minimum of 45 days for reflection and recovery, which I think we discussed in our previous debates.

Let me be clear: if a domestic worker who is a victim of trafficking leaves their employment and seeks assistance, we do not consider that to be an abuse of their visa, nor will they be criminalised for doing so. All victims should feel confident that they can report any abuse they suffer to the authorities and that they will be believed, treated as a victim and supported. I was moved by the tale from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, about the worker who just happened to meet somebody in a park and found out about this. How we get these messages to the victims themselves is a very difficult issue and I acknowledge the concerns around the Committee.

I am aware also of the suggestions that the level of abuse of overseas domestic workers has risen sharply as a consequence of the changes made to the visa rules in April 2012. Much report has been made of the reports by Kalayaan, the NGO that supports domestic workers, and the figures that it has produced—albeit from a very low sample. Home Office internal management information suggests that between May 2009 and July 2014 there were 213 confirmed cases of trafficking for domestic servitude involving non-EU nationals. Of these, only 41 were linked to overseas

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domestic worker visas—so we are talking about an average of 8 per year. If we look more closely at the figures, before we made the changes to the visa rules and added new protections, there were 16 confirmed domestic servitude cases linked to these visas. So, far from a rise in servitude linked to overseas domestic worker visas, the numbers fell after 2011 and have been stable since.

Of course, even one case of abuse is too many and should be tackled robustly by law enforcement. However, before we consider the specific needs of overseas domestic workers, it is important to see these statistics in some sort of context. The figures quoted by Kalayaan are based, as has been quoted, on 120 overseas domestic workers issued with visas after April 2012, who approached Kalayaan for help over a two-year period. During that period, we issued more than 32,000 visas, so the 120 workers who approached Kalayaan represent 0.4% of the total number of overseas domestic worker visas issued and only 0.2% of the total who were paid £50 or less. I go back to the point that even one case of abuse is too many, but it is important that we put these in the context of the number of overseas domestic workers for whom the systems appear to work.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Does she not accept that the figures that she has just given to the Committee are very dubious? How can evidence of this kind by collated? By definition, many of these will be people who are frightened out of their minds about going to any of the authorities. The Kalayaan figures demonstrate that: the discrepancy between the number of people who approached it and then those whom it was able to take on was a very tiny percentage. Is this not just the tip of an iceberg? By ignoring it we are not going to help the situation at all.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I entirely accept what the noble Lord says; it may well be the tip of an iceberg. However, I am setting out that the Government are trying to tackle this problem, in a way that previous Governments have, by the dual action of contacting the employers and the workers to ensure that both are aware, before they come to work in this country, of their rights and responsibilities.

I entirely accept the difficulty of identifying the people who are abused, but I assure noble Lords that anyone who is abused, once that comes to light, will be treated with the sort of help and support that one would expect from a country with our rich tradition of giving refuge to people who have problems. While working over here, they of course have the protection of UK employment law. Anyone who believes that they are being mistreated can take action to report it. As I say, the measures we are taking extend the ones that previous Government have taken. The numbers that are coming forward appear to be stabilising because we are taking measures to try to ensure that the employers and the workers have a full view of their rights when they come here.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): I thank the Minister for giving way. Of course, everything that can be done ought to be done to show the employer and the person they are employing what their rights and responsibilities

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are. I am sure that she would be the first to admit that that is a relationship of power to powerlessness. When it comes from that kind of relationship, particularly if there is a prospect of a family being left behind—say, in India—who will get a regular monthly pittance, what would a signature on a piece of paper really be worth?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I think we are all agreed that that is a difficult problem and we are trying to find ways to tackle it. The power of the employer and the fact that people support family links back home make it extraordinarily difficult for people to complain about their employment.

I turn to the tabled new clause and its proposal that, if they sought new work, overseas domestic workers would be allowed to extend their visas and be granted a three-month temporary visa where there is evidence that they had been a victim of trafficking or slavery. This particular visa is designed for the sole purpose of enabling workers who are part of a household overseas to accompany their employers to the UK while the employer is working here. Allowing them to change employer is not compatible with the purpose of this particular visa. It would create an anomaly in the system if non-skilled, non-European Economic Area domestic workers could come to the UK with an employer and then change employer and stay here in a way that is denied to other non-skilled, non-EEA workers.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me about the sort of numbers that we might expect. Between 2009 and 2013, on average 5,600 overseas domestic workers in private households extended their visas annually. We know that wages and working conditions in the UK are often more attractive than in the countries from which they may have come, so we would expect a similarly large number of workers to seek to remain here. The amendment would potentially allow overseas domestic workers to extend their visas indefinitely in 12-month increments, permitting all those who stayed in the UK for 10 years to become eligible to apply for settlement. It is arguable that this temporary, non-economic route should not have preference over those who choose to follow the official routes into employment in this country.

The ability to change employer does not necessarily protect against exploitation. Indeed, the long-term nature of employment and an ability to extend visas can, in some cases, facilitate abuse. It therefore would not necessarily provide protection against trafficking and other exploitation.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: Could the Minister explain how it would make abuse more, rather than less, likely if they have the power to make that choice? I did not quite follow the argument.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: If they had power to extend their visas indefinitely then the employer could keep them in the country indefinitely.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I thought the argument was that they had the power to change their employer. How does that make them more likely to be abused, if the reason they want to change their employer is

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because the employer who brought them into the country is abusing them in the kind of way that we heard from my noble friend Lady Kennedy?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: It would enable them to extend their visas. It is the extension of the visa that would mean that they could be here longer and therefore possibly open to abuse for longer.

One other thing worth saying is that, of those who sought to extend visas before, there was a whole range of reasons as to why they wanted to do so. The fact that they were victims of trafficking or abuse was not necessarily the only or the main reason why people chose to change employers and to extend their visas. Of course, we recognise that there are huge risks to people who come here. In the Bill we seek to provide methods of having a more secure life for the people who come into our country and who are here because of the employment they have with a particular employer.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, forgive me, but I am boiling over sitting on the end of the Bench here. I am sorry that I did not speak to this amendment; it was for my noble friend to do so and he did so very well. Throughout the debate on the Bill, all noble Lords around the Chamber have been at one with the Government in trying to make it a better Bill and in trying to ensure that the lives of people who are suffering in servitude, slavery and bonded labour are made better. We know that that is what the Government want to do. We are talking about a very few people who are in a desperate situation. It is not due to the noble Baroness the Leader, and I do not often blame civil servants, but I cannot believe the guff that the Minister has had to read out. We are talking about people who are unable to make telephone calls or act on all the information that is given to them. These people are in desperation. We need to help them. Frankly, what the noble Baroness is saying is just not good enough.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: If I may say so, I am not aware that the noble Baroness’s Government produced answers to this either. It is not a straightforward issue. We have been trying to take measures that will further create supportive situations for people who find themselves trafficked. As I have said, if they do find themselves trafficked they will be taken up, be given support and be given legal aid. I absolutely accept the difficulty of people in these situations to get access outside of their house and to escape an abusive employer. However, the measures we are putting in place are part of an effort to try to identify where things have gone wrong and where there are people living in abusive situations in our country.

I will touch on those in diplomatic houses. Very often the servants of diplomats come under a different area of protection from other workers. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office treats very seriously any mistreatment of domestic workers in diplomatic households. Of course, that requires immense sensitivity in dealing with people whose customs and norms are different. However, it now has set in place very strong systems so that diplomats can be withdrawn from this country if it is discovered that they do not conform to the standards of employment that we expect from

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them and from everybody in this country. I entirely share the anger of the Committee about people who come to this country and are exploited and victimised while here. We are seeking different ways; we are open to suggestions from all sides of the Committee as to what other measures we might—

6.30 pm

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I am grateful to the Minister. If she is open to suggestions, I wonder what she is prepared to say about the analogy with the marriage visa. Would she at least take it away and look at it with a possibility of allowing up to six months of public benefit while they sort themselves and the Home Office sorts them?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I apologise to the noble and learned Baroness. I think she is referring to the domestic violence concession, which is a three-month visa to allow people to come to the UK with an expectation that they will settle here and during those three months they must make an application to settle. That is specifically for those coming here to join family with the expectation of staying. Victims who are helping the police with an investigation already have access to discretionary leave of at least one year and one day, so they have an extended time over here to make their case, if they are already in contact with the police. I think from the suggestions that the noble and learned Baroness was making, they would probably already have had to make clear that they were victims of abuse. That would have become public and they would have found a way of making that known to the authorities.

We are obviously going to come back to this clause to try to set out ways of dealing with this issue. If noble Lords around the Committee who feel as anguished about this as obviously people do have clear suggestions as to how the Government could do more to help the situation so that we do not have anybody in the country who is a victim of abuse and slavery while in domestic employment, then we are more than ready to listen to them. We have already set and strengthened the systems of trying to make contact with the worker at the point of entry. After that, it may be very difficult to make contact with them, but when they are coming in at the point of entry they will have to present a passport and that is a moment when the authorities can make contact with them. We are also seeking to make sure that all employers who come to work in this country are fully aware of the compliance which they should make for the people whom they employ.

For the reasons that I have set out, we think that this clause would not necessarily strengthen the safeguards for the very people whom we are trying to protect. We all have the same aims in mind—to attempt to strengthen the protections for these people. I hope that, with the assurance that we will be addressing this again and discussing it further before Report, the noble Baroness will feel minded to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I warmly thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment and have suggested creative alternative variations on the theme, as my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss has done. I find it a little hard to fulfil the

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characteristic courtesy of thanking the Minister. I am sorry, but I think that I rather felt sympathy for the reply that she was obliged to give. It seems to me that at the moment the Government totally underestimate the seriousness of the situation. They put forward remedial suggestions such as templates or providing information on arrival in the country. The nonsensical nature of the effectiveness of those remedies came out very clearly in the debate itself.

It has been shown again and again that these very vulnerable workers may well not have ways of understanding information that is made available, or it may be removed along with their passports. Frankly, those are not reassuring alternatives. The Government’s position totally underestimates the incredible vulnerability of these workers. They are trapped in these situations. There is also the whole aspect of the intimidation and abuse that they suffer and the intimidation and threats to their families back home—that is a very real long arm of intimidation which prevents many of them seeking help in the first place.

Figures were quoted, but figures really are a distraction. Kalayaan’s research may say 120, but one is one too many. Every case that has been reported is a situation of challenge to us in this country to do something effective about these immensely vulnerable people. The distance—the chasm—between the kind of de jure position adopted by the Government and the de facto reality of these immensely vulnerable people is a chasm that really has not been breached by the Minister’s suggestions.

I emphasise that all of us who have spoken share the conviction that the plight of overseas domestic workers in this country today is a very real and well documented form of slavery. It would be intensely ironic—ironic in the extreme—if we failed to use the Modern Slavery Bill to eradicate this form of slavery on our own doorsteps. I am sorry to say that I do not feel that we have received a very satisfactory reassurance from the Minister. I am sure that we will have to return extremely robustly to this issue on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment 94 withdrawn.

Amendments 95 and 96 not moved.

Amendment 97

Moved by Baroness Butler-Sloss

97: After Clause 50, insert the following new Clause—

“Gangmasters Licensing Authority

The Secretary of State may make regulations to amend the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 to enlarge the functions, powers and duties of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority set out in section 1 of the 2004 Act.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, this is another modest amendment to allow the Government to look at the Gangmasters Licensing Authority at an appropriate time to see whether the functions, powers and duties of the licensing authority should be extended to cover other areas, which are extremely obvious, where it is well known that there is quite a lot of slavery and trafficking.

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Two particular areas that I have in mind are the construction industry and the hospitality industry. One area of the hospitality industry is the laundry. Almost every hotel uses outsourcing of its laundry. There are serious concerns as to what goes on in some of the laundries. There is no doubt at all that there are serious concerns about what goes on in the construction business, particularly with people working on sites.

A very obvious example of that was the Connors case in Bedfordshire, where a Gypsy family, the Connors, picked up out-of-work, homeless people from soup kitchens and homeless centres and took them, on the promise of £80 a day, to work on construction sites. These people were kept in appalling accommodation in caravans, first working on construction sites in England, and then a whole lot of them were taken across to Sweden where they were working in the northern part of the country. It was not until a young Swedish boy, who had also been caught like this, walked 500 miles to Stockholm and went to the police, who rushed to the area where these people were locked up—not being paid a single penny, in appalling conditions—that they were identified as slaves and victims, and they did not even know it. However, one of them gave evidence to the informal inquiry led by Frank Field MP, of which Sir John Randall MP and I were members at the request of the Home Secretary. This particular victim gave very clear evidence of what goes on in the construction industry.

I understand entirely the scarcity of resources, so I am not asking the Government to extend the powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Indeed, Paul Broadbent would be horrified unless he had proper resources to manage what would have to be a larger enterprise if these two areas were taken into account. What I do not want is there to be inability on the part of the Government, when they have the money to extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, to find the proper legislative process to be able to do that. To put the matter in current usage, rather than faffing around looking for the right sort of place, if you have the power to do it, you do not have to do it until you can, but the power would be there so that you could do it in subsidiary legislation later. I hope that the Government will listen seriously to what I suggest. I beg to move.

Baroness Kennedy of Cradley: My Lords, I have Amendment 97A in this group, but I also support Amendment 97 in the name of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and Amendment 101A in the name of my noble friend Lord Rosser. Many people welcome the great job done by the GLA. In the sectors for which it is responsible, it has been extremely effective at raising standards and driving out poor performance. Ten years ago, given the context in which the GLA was established, limiting the sectors it covered made sense. But 10 years later the limit on the GLA remit now makes little sense.

Amendment 97A was recommended by the joint scrutiny committee, of which I was a member, to allow the remit of the GLA to be extended. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, many high-risk sectors fall outside the remit of the GLA, such as

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construction and hospitality—and I would add care and cleaning to that list. These sectors are high risk because they commonly use subcontractors, agencies and migrant labour. The work is seasonal and low paid, and workers often work on site and in isolated conditions. Therefore, these sectors need to be afforded greater attention and the workers need the extra protection given to them by the licensing regime of the GLA.

As I have said, the GLA is widely recognised as being effective and is often cited as an example of best practice. Many people have called for its remit to be extended to such high-risk sectors, which is why the Joint Committee looked at it in some detail and agreed. It would be a mistake not to consider it now or, as the noble and learned Baroness said, in the future, which is why I support Amendments 97 and 101A that allow for that. These amendments also would allow the GLA to be given greater powers. I agree. The GLA would have the power, for example, to enforce payment of unpaid wages and the ability to fine businesses which have deliberately evaded licensing.

The sentencing and penalties faced by unlicensed and exploitative gangmasters also need addressing. Some very ruthless people are getting away with comparatively small fines. In 2013, an unlicensed gangmaster was convicted of exploiting more than 60 Filipino workers on dairy farms in the UK. Despite having made more than £700,000 through exploiting his workers and housing them in appalling conditions, he was given a 12-month suspended sentence and was asked to pay £45,000 in compensation over three years. We must review the sentencing guidelines for GLA offences. We cannot have a situation where cruel gangmasters see fines, in the words of the GLA,

“as a hazard of the job”.

I hope that we can amend this Bill to address these significant issues, as when there is inadequate preventive action, abuse occurs.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 101A in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Rosser, and I support the other amendments in the group. Like others, we are seeking an enabling power by regulations to allow the Secretary of State to expand the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority into other sectors when he or she wishes to do so. In Committee in the other place, the Minister, Karen Bradley, said:

“The case has not been made for extending the GLA’s remit at this stage beyond the core areas the Act sought to address”.—[Official Report, Commons, 14/10/14; col. 480.]

I contest that point of view because, like other Members across the Committee, we have a deal of evidence to prove that there is a strong case for extending the GLA’s remit. But we are not forcing the Government to do that now; we are saying, as and when appropriate, please let us do it.

The introduction of legislation on gangmasters in 2004 has worked very well in protecting workers in the agriculture, horticulture and shellfish collection sectors. Widespread research from trade unions, charities and academics suggests that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are routinely underpaid and overworked in dirty and dangerous jobs across the UK on farms,

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in care homes, providing cleaning services on the London Underground, in hotels and offices, and on construction sites, as others have said. Often employed by labour providers or gangmasters, many of these workers presumably have little idea of UK employment rights such as the national minimum wage, let alone the leverage to be able to claim them.

6.45 pm

The draft Bill committee considered this in detail and recommended:

“The weight of evidence we received suggested that expanding the GLA’s powers and industrial remit would yield positive results”.

The TUC has described the GLA as,

“an example of an effective body that UK industry helped establish to manage and mitigate risks of slavery in the food and agriculture sector”.

In its report, Hard Work, Hidden Lives, it points out:

“Tighter regulation is needed of the sectors and businesses where risks are greatest. The GLA has demonstrated that it can effectively enforce standards in its sector and their approach could be applied to other sectors where vulnerable workers are exploited … The Government should be prepared to extend the GLA licensing regime—a proposal which responsible agencies back—to cover sectors characterised by vulnerable employment. The aim would be to ensure that an employer seriously exploiting workers and undercutting reputable companies would lose their licence to trade”.

Anti-Slavery International applauds the GLA for its model of good practice, which is widely recognised across Europe. Focus on Labour Exploitation, FLEX, points out that from the four Ps that the Government are using to tackle modern slavery—pursue, prevent, protect and prepare, with which we fully agree—prevention is addressed in the Bill only with regard to the new slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders. It recommends that,

“effective prevention requires strong government led measures to enforce labour standards alongside business-led reporting requirements”.

Oxfam has researched this issue and has produced a report entitled Turning the Tide. It points to the other sectors that have been mentioned where action needs to be taken. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“Many have called for extending the authority and the resources of the GLA to cover all industries where there is known risk of exploitation and forced labour associated with labour providers. The evidence from the JRF’s programme points to the same recommendation”.

On 13 October, the Salvation Army, which has managed adult human trafficking victim care and co-ordination since being awarded the contract in July 2011, produced a report saying that, of the more than 1,800 victims of human trafficking in England and Wales since 2011, 42% of cases last year involved forced labour, against 38% that were sexual exploitation cases and 10% that involved domestic servitude. This means that, for the first time, forced labour cases grew at a faster rate than those of sexual exploitation. That is a very telling statistic.

Of the forced labour cases in which the charity had been involved, almost 80% involved men. Sometimes, when we consider this issue, we tend to think of it as a very female problem but it now applies to men as well as women. I had hoped that the new modern slavery strategy would provide us with some reassurance as to

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the future of the GLA and its ability to work in other areas. However, on reading the strategy, there appears to be nothing to indicate that the Government intend to look at expanding the remit of the GLA. I hope that today’s debate will encourage them to do so. The strategy focuses its attention on the new better business compliance partnerships, which are being established as part of this Government’s programme of work to tackle illegal working practices and the exploitation of workers. Of course, new better business compliance partnerships are all well and good, but they do not tackle the problem that we seek to resolve here by expanding the remit.

I do not really understand why the Government to date have not wished to move on this. As the noble and learned Baroness and my noble friend have said, we are not saying that the Government must do this now. This is an enabling power, so that in due course, when the money is there and when all the evidence that the Government believe is necessary is there—we think that the evidence is there now—they will be able to act so that these people who are suffering in bonded labour will have a way to get justice. These amendments contain only enabling powers. They would allow a future Secretary of State to diversify and to add the work of the GLA to other sectors if and when appropriate—no more, no less.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I support these amendments. I see them as a corollary of our concerns about supply chains. Increasingly in my work, I am looking at issues concerning the corporate world and human rights. Many leading figures in the corporate world are anxious to address these issues because of the implications for their brand and damage to their reputation internationally if they are seen to be participating in activities which breach human rights.

Outsourcing is similarly an area where there are risks of high levels of abuse. There needs to be a real awareness that, as with supply chains, in outsourcing aspects of a business there is often a risk that those who are providing labour are going to be exploiting and abusive of those they are bringing in. As I mentioned, I chaired an inquiry in Scotland for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The whole of the central belt of Scotland is a provider of soft fruits and brings in migrant labour from abroad. It was the Gangmasters Licensing Authority that helped to eradicate some of the abusive practices that were happening there. The workers were living in the most terrible circumstances and there were issues around not just what they were being paid but how they were being treated. It falls to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to raise standards as well as to bring prosecutions. The inspectors within the GLA are often former police officers. I was very impressed with their commitment and with their evidence to the inquiry. As we have heard, this is moving beyond food and agriculture and into construction. It is also moving into care, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, mentioned. In this area, the ill treatment of workers is great, as it is in the outsourced elements of hospitality, such as cleaning and laundry.

I urge the Government to look at this. I accept, as do others, that there are financial constraints and that there would need to be resourcing. I support the idea

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of enabling legislation so that when the time is right we will not have to take up more parliamentary time and the expansion of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s remit can be speedily introduced.

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, I will intervene very briefly because I agree with almost everything that has been said. I was the Minister who brought in the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. At that time there was considerable scepticism as to whether we could use administrative means to clean up what was broadly recognised as an exploitative situation within horticulture and agriculture. I wished then that it had been slightly broader than that because, even more than 10 years ago, it was evident that some of these terrible practices extended to some other industries. Indeed, the same workers were being used. However, we decided to focus on horticulture and agriculture. The general message is that, although we have not entirely eliminated exploitation, bad living conditions and illegality from those sectors, they are a lot cleaner than they were. The effectiveness of the GLA is widely recognised.

The important point that has not really been emphasised is that the GLA has the ability to sanction the users of the labour. It is not just the gangmasters who are in the frame but the farmers and the horticulturalists as well, and that has driven a change of behaviour and attitude which has been backed up by those who use the produce—the retailers and the processors. There is a whole supply effect because the direct employer of labour that is being provided under these terrible conditions can be sanctioned.

This situation pre-eminently applies in parts of construction and it very evidently applies in catering and hospitality and in the care sector. If pressure is not put on the apparently respectable users of that labour then the sanctions, although not entirely ineffective, are less than complete. I recognise, as other noble Lords have done, the need for more information and more resources but we must use this legislation to enable the Government to extend this kind of approach to these other sectors at the appropriate point.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 97 tabled by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It is clear that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is widely respected and its role in preventing the increase in forced labour is very effective. The sectors that we are concerned about have all been mentioned and so I do not need to repeat points that have been powerfully made. It is not just a question of extending the sectors covered by the GLA. We should also not overlook its powers and duties. For instance, I understand that the GLA does not have the power to recover arrears of pay on behalf of workers. That sort of power or function might be one for further consideration.

The issue of resources arises. My noble friend Lady Suttie, who cannot be here at the moment, commented to me that there should be some sort of cost-benefit analysis of the extension of the sectors because of possible savings elsewhere. We know how hard this is in government. The DWP, the Department of Health

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and even the Home Office perhaps would not readily concede this, although they might be involved in some sort of analysis.

I am sorry to see that the CBI is reluctant to consider an extension. Its briefing refers to the GLA being,

“most effective in those sectors in which it currently operates”,

and to focusing on not extending work to “low-risk areas”. As noble Lords have said, construction, care, catering and hospitality are high-risk areas. The CBI is concerned about scrutiny of the compliant rather than action against the non-compliant. The obvious answer is that when there is compliance there need not be too much of a burden.

The British Retail Consortium takes a different view and has briefed a number of noble Lords about the GLA being an example of an effective body in helping to manage and mitigate the risks of slavery. It supports a review of the role and remit of the GLA, including extending its investigative powers, as long as it is sufficiently resourced, into other, as it puts it, high-risk areas. It is obvious that there is, if not unanimity, quite a lot of support. This surely must be something that the Government could at least leave on the agenda rather than exclude it.

7 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I support noble Lords who have spoken in favour of these amendments, moved and spoken to so ably by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.

At Second Reading, and indeed in the debate on my Amendment 32 about the proceeds of crime and creating a victims’ fund that could be used to resource the authorities that are involved in trying to police trafficking, I referred to the tragedy that occurred in Morecambe Bay, which led to the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in helping to create this authority. Noble Lords will remember that 23 Chinese men and women drowned in Morecambe Bay, having been taken there by gangmasters in order to go cockle-picking. A local fisherman, Harold Benson, said at the time that what happened was,

“not only awful beyond words—it was absolutely avoidable”.

However, the lessons of Morecambe Bay have not been fully learnt. As we consider this legislation, which provides us with the only vehicle to tackle these kinds of issues—it is timely, it is good legislation and it is an opportunity—the question for the House is: is there more that needs to be done? At Second Reading, I referred to academic work that has been done at the University of Durham, which identified not only the need to extend the mandate of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority but the need for more resources. In 2011, 30 miles away from Morecambe Bay, in the River Ribble—not far from where I live—17 cockle-pickers of eastern European origin had to be rescued when they were in precisely the same situation as those in Morecambe Bay. We have not overcome the problem. We have set up an authority to deal with it but we have not adequately resourced that authority or put sufficient powers into its hands.

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Indeed, when I looked at the figures, I was struck by the fact that only 37 people are employed by the authority and they have to cover the whole of Great Britain. Between 2011 and 2014 its budget was cut by some 17% and in 2013—I asked for the numbers of convictions—only seven people had been convicted. That does not fill me with great confidence that it is able to do the job that it was asked by Parliament to do. The authority is a wonderful creation. It has been given reasonable powers but they need to be extended. It certainly needs more resources.

This enabling provision, which my noble and learned friend referred to as being a modest amendment, would provide Ministers with the necessary belt and braces in the future to do more as and when the authority feels it wishes to. Not to put such a provision in the Bill will lead, as my noble and learned friend said, to the messiness of having to come back to Parliament. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, told us, it would require parliamentary time. That seems to be the wrong way to go about this. We have the opportunity here to put something into the legislation that would give the Government the ability to act, and it is an opportunity we should seize.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Baroness for tabling this amendment, and to other noble Lords who have spoken with such concern about the issues around the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, particularly its remit.

This Government are committed to ensuring fairness in the workplace, tackling worker exploitation and encouraging and raising levels of compliance with workplace rights across all sectors. We are already doing this through the use of existing enforcement arrangements. We very much welcome the many comments that have been made in support of the GLA and its vital work. It has been operating for less than 10 years but it is a successful organisation doing excellent work in tackling harmful activity affecting workers who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the sectors that it currently covers.

We need to consider this carefully and ensure that in seeking to broaden the GLA’s remit, we do not risk undermining the good work that is being done already. As the noble and learned Baroness pointed out, it is a comparatively small body, with only 66 staff. It performs a targeted role in an effective way and has a positive influence in the broader fight against exploitation. We very much want that to continue.

Following the Red Tape Challenge exercise and the triennial review, the GLA is implementing changes that will lift unnecessary burdens on compliant businesses while enabling a stronger focus on enforcement action. It is important that both these aspects are developed and move forward together.

Amendment 97 provides for a very broad power, enabling expansion of the GLA’s scope, remit and powers. Changes in the scope or remit of the GLA may very well be sensible; that is something that we will wish to consider further and which the Government have said that they wish to keep under review. However, we are not convinced that Amendment 97 meets that need or is the appropriate way to deal with the issue at the moment.

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The amendment is open-ended. The enabling power could be used to set up the GLA to tackle all forms of slavery, trafficking and exploitation far beyond employment. That is a very big step away from the GLA’s current remit, where it has been so effective. It would require a dramatically different organisational and funding model to achieve a much broader role, which would likely require further primary legislation, as has been alluded to. Amendments 97A and 101A focus specifically on the remit, enabling the current licensing regime to be extended to additional industrial sectors beyond agriculture and food. Noble Lords have mentioned a number of sectors where this would be particularly relevant.

I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who introduced the Bill in 2004 that established the GLA as a body to carry out a licensing regime and to take enforcement action against unlicensed activities. We need to progress on both these fronts. It would be interesting to discuss with the noble Lord why he did not seek to extend the remit from the two sectors that were mentioned in the original Act.

We have concerns about extending the regime to new sectors without clear evidence that that represents the most effective and efficient approach. Licensing affects the compliant business and the rogue gangmaster alike. The majority of gangmaster businesses are highly compliant small and medium-sized enterprises that are generating employment and economic growth for the UK. We would not want to burden them unnecessarily with regulation.

Simply extending the current licensing regime into new sectors would not necessarily improve efforts to tackle exploitative employers who flout the law. We need to focus on seeking and bringing to justice serious criminals who enslave innocent victims. So we wish to see a GLA with a strong focus on anti-slavery and worker exploitation that will support the Government’s broader strategy on modern slavery. We are working for that through an approach that builds on the GLA’s already excellent work.

I will set out some of the work that is already happening to develop the GLA. Bringing it into the Home Office has already increased collaboration and capability through easier contact with other law enforcement agencies engaged in addressing and disrupting serious criminal activity, including human trafficking for worker exploitation in the UK. The GLA is playing a full part in the better business compliance partnerships—a programme that will begin operation shortly. These pilots will look at more efficient ways of bringing together a wide range of compliance and enforcement officers locally. We expect the GLA to bring knowledge and experience to the problems identified in these areas to tackle worker exploitation and illegal working.

The GLA is working with the University of Derby to devise training and to develop an anti-slavery training academy for use by supply chain businesses. This will build on the GLA’s excellent existing collaboration with business in its regulated sectors. The GLA is well placed to tackle the serious worker exploitation that lies between the more technical compliance offences

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that fall to be investigated by HMRC and the serious and organised crimes that are addressed by the National Crime Agency.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee raised the concerns of the CBI, which we share, about the appropriateness of this measure and the expansion not just into other sectors but of the remit of the GLA. We have a very good working agency in the GLA and it is tempting to extend it beyond its natural remit too quickly and without due consideration of all the factors that would be required to make entirely sure that any extension was appropriate and as efficient as the GLA.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, mentioned the inadequacy of the fines and the sentencing. Sentencing is a matter for the courts and there have been some low fines issued against convicted unlicensed gangmasters, but she may be reassured to know that the first custodial sentence for an offence under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act was imposed in December 2013 when a Lithuanian national was given seven years for operating without a licence. He ran an organised crime operation in Norfolk and controlled scores of workers brought over from his homeland, using tactics including debt bondage, psychological and physical intimidation, and violence. We have heard from other noble Lords of some appalling examples of the way in which workers can be treated by gangmasters. Fines have been increased for magistrates’ courts and Crown Courts, depending on the seriousness of the offence, so hopefully the levity of the fines is currently being tackled.

I can assure the House that there is a great deal of work going on within government to improve the work of the GLA and to consider its future. We will, of course, ensure that today’s contributions are considered during that work and we will further consider whether it might be expanded in sector or in remit. For the moment we do not feel that this particular legislation and these particular amendments are the best way of moving forward, but obviously we will discuss this again and I hope that meanwhile noble Lords will feel able not to press their amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am very pleased to hear of the work that is going on. I do not know whether I missed it but is any work being undertaken to obtain the evidence of the need for an extension of the remit and an extension into other sectors? Many of us have been told about this but more evidence is needed. Is work being undertaken by the Government to satisfy themselves in response to the sorts of concerns that have been expressed? I accept that the Minister may not have that information now but I think that it is a question which it is appropriate to ask at this point.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: It is indeed. I do not have that evidence directly to hand but it is probably something that the University of Derby will be considering in its work in investigating and reviewing this.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, pursuant to that point, would the Minister also look at the evidence that I referred to earlier from the University of Durham, which looked at the mandate, the remit and the resources

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available to the gangmasters? In the case I referred to in 2013 they found that the gangmaster had given no safety equipment, issued no guidance and had no knowledge of the sea or the tides, and yet 17 eastern European workers were exposed to what was potentially a fatal situation in the Ribble estuary. Surely that demonstrates that something is amiss here and that we need to do more. Perhaps between now and Report we could look further at the empirical evidence that is available.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, that is an excellent idea. We will do that and come back at Report.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I, too, pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. He ought to be proud of his baby, which is very successful. It is doing extremely well and is very well regarded. It has been running for something like 10 years, so when the Minister talks about not acting too quickly, I wonder what period of time we need if 10 years is not seen to be very long.

I am actually asking for something very modest. I understand perfectly well that the wording that I have put forward may not be at all what the Government want. All I am really asking them to do is to lay down a marker for future Governments to have the power to do this. To have a power does not require the Government to take action. There is all too much legislation with all too many enabling clauses which we all know never come to fruition, so it is no skin off the nose of the Government to put something down that enables another Government, by regulation, to put forward extensions to the powers and the remit and the various things that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has suggested at some future appropriate stage. It might be in five years’ time or even 10 but it will be there and something can be done without the Government having to find a vehicle in primary legislation to achieve it.

7.15 pm

We know that there are other areas that need something done. Whether it should be done under the umbrella of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority or whether, as the Minister says, that might dilute it too far, I do not know, but what is wanted is a vehicle on which to hang the ability to do something effective without having to find time in primary legislation to do it. I have suggested two areas: hospitality and construction. The food industry was also suggested, which is one that we should be equally concerned about. Why should they be excluded, other than by some sort of research, from the opportunity to be helped in the way that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is able to do, by providing penalties and having a charge over these organisations? It seems to me very sad that the Government should shut the door on that.

Let me just reiterate that I am not asking Government to do anything. All I am asking them to do is to produce their own variation, which all parliamentary draftsmen prefer to the wording that comes from anyone else. I am just asking the Government to think about it and give themselves or any other Government the opportunity to do a bit of extra good on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s work at some future

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stage, which may be in three, five or 10 years’ time—but why not just have it there? That is why I have put forward this enabling clause, which I am quite prepared to accept is too broad. I knew it would not be accepted but it is the idea of it that I am putting forward. It is with the hope that the Government will take it away and at least look at it and not shut the door that I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 97 withdrawn.

Amendment 97A not moved.

Clause 51: Transparency in supply chains etc

Amendment 97AA

Moved by Lord Rosser

97AA: Clause 51, page 37, line 27, at end insert—

“( ) A slavery and human trafficking statement by a commercial organisation must contain specific information in relation to the steps they have taken in the following areas—

(a) accountability for tackling modern slavery and forced labour, including policy commitments, resourcing and actions to exercise due diligence,

(b) investigation, monitoring and auditing of modern slavery and forced labour risks in the UK and throughout their global supply chains,

(c) support and access to remedy for victims of forced labour and modern slavery, and

(d) training of staff and suppliers, and access to expertise and advice.”

Lord Rosser: My Lords, the movement the Government have made on this issue during the last stages of the Bill’s progress through the other place is welcome. We cannot accept products made using slave labour being sold here if we are determined to tackle modern slavery in this country. Over four out of five members of the public in this country want legislation on this issue, as do the overwhelming majority of companies themselves. The public will want to be satisfied that progress is being made to eliminate modern slavery in businesses and in supply chains, since awareness has arisen in the light of some high-profile cases that slavery or forced labour can be and is associated with the production of goods for major UK companies.

The public will want to be satisfied that the provisions of this Bill will lead to the end of products made using slave labour being sold on our streets. Although most commercial organisations are tackling this issue, it can be hard to see and measure tangible progress. There needs to be a way for consumers in particular to be able to judge the relative performance in this area of companies whose products or services they may wish to purchase. To achieve this, there is a need to introduce mandatory reporting requirements to ensure that companies adopt similar processes and approaches in reporting, which is what this amendment seeks to do. This will also help create the level playing field that responsible companies want to see and is the reason why so many companies are seeking effective legislation on this matter.

The Bill refers to a commercial organisation being required to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement, which is defined as,

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“a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place … in any of its supply chains, and … in any part of its own business, or … a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps”.

The relevant clause, Clause 51, goes on to say that the Secretary of State,

“may issue guidance about the duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section”,

and that the guidance,

“may … include guidance about the kind of information which may be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement”.

Indeed, the Home Secretary’s title appears all over Clause 51.

While that clause goes on to say that,

“The duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section are enforceable by the Secretary of State bringing civil proceedings”,

it appears that the duty in the Bill in respect of preparing a slavery and human trafficking statement extends no further than producing a statement of the steps that the organisation has, or has not, taken. There is no duty imposed on what kind of information should be provided to substantiate or provide some specifics on the steps taken, since that requirement will be in the form of guidance which “may” be issued by the Secretary of State and which “may” be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement.

Thus, guidance, in effect, may not be issued at all. If it is—and the guidance may be specific or generalised—it is optional whether the kind of information that it suggests should be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement is actually included. Frankly, that is all pretty vague and woolly. It certainly does not ensure that companies provide sufficient information to be able to judge whether they are effectively addressing the issue of modern slavery in their own organisations and in supply chains and taking effective steps to ensure that, if modern slavery or exploitation exists, it is being eliminated.

If the Government believe that the prospects of civil proceedings will be rather more potent than I have suggested, perhaps the Minister could spell out the situations in which they could be initiated under the terms of the Bill, beyond a commercial organisation failing to produce a statement of the steps that it has, or has not, taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place. Are the Government saying that, under the terms of Clause 51(9), civil proceedings can be brought on other grounds and, if so, in respect of which other duties imposed on commercial organisations by the clause?

Our amendment seeks to set out the specific information that must be provided in a slavery and human trafficking statement by a commercial organisation in relation to the steps that they have taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place. The requirement is information that must be provided, so if it is not provided that could be the subject of the civil proceedings. If the information is provided but suggests that very little is being done, that fact will be exposed in a way that would not happen under Clause 51 as it stands.

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Our amendment would also better enable meaningful comparisons of the performance of different commercial organisations, in addressing and eradicating modern slavery in their own organisations and supply chains, to be made by consumers and other interested parties, including shareholders, relevant voluntary organisations and the media, in a way that Clause 51 does not provide. It would also better enable interested parties to examine whether what is said in slavery and human trafficking statements in fact represents an accurate assessment of the situation, or whether they are statements whose relationship to the facts is not immediately obvious.

The ability for interested parties to compare the performance in this field of different companies, and the knowledge that the content of statements which have to address specific points could be checked for their fairness and accuracy, will act as an incentive for commercial organisations to address properly the issue of modern slavery in their businesses and supply chains, because of the reputational damage likely to be caused if it is shown that their performance on this issue is poor, or that the slavery and human trafficking statements they produce—which, under our amendment, would have to contain the specific information laid down—are not as accurate as they might have been. That situation, and the pressure that it will place on commercial organisations to act, will not be there under the requirements of Clause 51. I simply ask the Government: how do they believe that the wording in Clause 51 provides a means of checking effectively on what some commercial organisations are doing in comparison with others, and of being able to check on the accuracy of the content of a slavery and human trafficking statement?

While Clause 51 is most welcome as movement on this issue by the Government, with its vagueness, its repeated use of “may” and its guidance rather than requirements, the clause is based too much on the “It’ll be alright on the night” approach. That is, frankly, not adequate on a matter as serious as this, involving the exploitation of and contempt for other human beings. This is something impacting on our own doorsteps, since it involves the goods and services that we buy. We need to get Clause 51 right first time. We need to place prominent emphasis on the position of those who are being exploited and to ensure that the terms and requirements in the Bill are strong enough to address and eliminate, over not too long a time, the evil that is modern slavery where it exists in businesses and in their supply chains. I beg to move.

Baroness Goudie (Lab): My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Rosser on this amendment. I feel extremely strongly about this as, throughout this evening, we have heard about not having enough money but we have to remember that we are talking about people. They are not robots or goods; they are human beings. It is really important to remember that when we talked earlier about the cost of implementing this, we are talking about saving people’s lives and ensuring that they have a life as good as we have, or even better.

The way I see this operating is that accountability in companies should be handled by their procurement department. Every large and small company has a

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procurement department or somebody who goes to the middle companies that they order from. We should not say that the middle people should be responsible. The companies should be able to tell us and, if necessary, go and inspect where and how the goods are made, and how the people are paid. They spend enough time on decorating, branding and PR, but instead of spending so much time and money on those things, they should spend it in their new procurement department. Some of them have these procurement departments; I see them as being as important as health and safety has become, thanks to the way that Governments have pushed that forward.

It is so that the companies can say, when the audit is done every year and in their annual report, that they have visited the factories and the building sites. It may be something that the construction industry here is responsible for in Bahrain, Beijing or Qatar. This should apply not just to companies but to government departments, when we are assisting as museums or parts of new universities are built abroad. What we are trying to say is that every company and organisation involved in labour or goods, abroad or here, should be audited and that the procurement department should be responsible. “May” is not strong enough; we have to say that this is to be done annually in the audit and that it can be inspected and questioned.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, at the end of Second Reading the Minister, referring to one noble Lord—but I think it might have applied to many of us—commented that he spent a minute welcoming the Bill and then several minutes asking for more. Clearly, this clause falls into that category.

I have tabled Amendments 97B to 97E, which come from a meeting that a number of us had with the Minister, after which we were looking for a peg on which he could hang the very helpful assurances given in that meeting. I appreciate that this is a developing area of work for the Government. As has been said, Clause 51 has not been in the Bill for very long. It is also clear that many colleagues feel that it needs to be strengthened. My amendments would provide a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations about the form of the statement and how it is to be reported—something that particularly concerned those who have spoken and features in briefings that we have had. They would also allow the Secretary of State to issue regulations about the duties imposed on commercial organisations, not just guidance.

7.30 pm

I realise that the last of my amendments is not, in fact, necessary; it is covered by Amendment 97D. Amendment 97C which seeks to change “the Secretary of State” to “a Secretary of State” might seem a little odd—I know that “the Secretary of State” would be the right way to refer to any Secretary of State; you pick which is the appropriate Secretary of State depending on what you are looking at. It brings into the debate, however, not just the responsibility of the Home Office but the responsibilities and interests of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, BIS and DfID. I could probably go on, but those are the most obvious departments. As I said, in a meeting that obviously is

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not part of the public record of the Bill, the Minister was able to be very reassuring and give some interesting observations of his own on what goes on in supply chains. I will not steal his thunder by letting on what that experience and piece of work was, but he was very helpful and I hope that he can repeat some of that in public.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, the Government are to be congratulated on putting Clause 51 down. It is a very important clause and a huge relief to see it here after the Select Committee of which I was a member made considerable noise about it in its report. So it is very good. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, says, having said something is good, we always want a bit more. I follow on from what she is saying.

The amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in particular, are those that I would support. There are two points that I am particularly concerned about. Who monitors the statements and to whom will the statements be given? What is being suggested—which might be a good idea—is providing a copy of the slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one. However, that requires someone to do it. It may be that in some relatively unknown company—which may not have a very good track record but may not have been exposed—no one would ask. I appreciate that there would be regulations, but my suggestion, as the Minister will remember, was that the commissioner should receive copies of the statement, and that the commissioner should monitor. He seems the most obvious person to do it.

The second point that worries me is the duties imposed. Clause 51(9) says:

“The duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section are enforceable by the Secretary of State bringing civil proceedings in the High Court”.

So far, so good, but what is the purpose of an injunction? Just bring civil proceedings. It should be much broader. Generally, injunctions are to tell people not to do something. There are mandatory injunctions, but they are rather limited in their use. I just do not understand why the only duty imposed on a commercial organisation by the Secretary of State would be an injunction. That ought to be looked at with rather more care, because why on earth can you not impose penalties or seek damages?

There are all these various regulators, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, which regulate banks and organisations and impose enormous fines. Why on earth can the Secretary of State not do that if there is an obvious example of a company that is not only not producing statements, but is not checking whether, right down the line of its supply chain, there is a company supplying it with the goods that it is selling which is acting as a slave owner? A penalty seems the most obvious thing.

I really do think that subsection (9) is utterly inadequate and something in particular that should be looked at. The commissioner should have some powers at least to look at these statements, but the Secretary of State should have much stronger powers to deal with defaulters. I ask the Government to look at this again.

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Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate—and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for moving his amendment—and for the wide welcome that has been given to the clause. I will bask in that statement of welcome just for a couple of seconds, because it probably will not endure for very long. As is the case not only in Part Six but in all parts of the Bill, I totally understand the impatience of the Committee and of civil society on this issue. There is a wrong that is happening out there and we all want to tackle it. We want to go after the perpetrators and stop the abuse as much as possible.

I will deal with some of the issues that have been raised in some general opening remarks and, if the Committee will bear with me, I will put some remarks relating to the Government’s position on the record. I am also conscious that we are now coming to three groups that look at the supply chain from slightly different angles. Therefore, some of the issues and comments will overlap.

I certainly subscribe to the view of my noble friend Lady Hamwee. I refer to my own experience in supply chains because I did my MBA dissertation in China, in Qingdao, where I was commissioned to research Nike footwear factories and analyse how they were performing against Nike’s standard and code—the apparel industry code, as I recall. We found some amazing stories, which made me very alert to the issues.

There is one issue that is worth putting on the record at this point. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned the statistic that four-fifths of the public want us to go further and want more information on this. Although the factories were located in China, they were operated by Korean companies. Part of the reason those factories were being driven so hard was that the consumers were not prepared to pay the market price for the footwear. They wanted more and more features and more and more design intricacies, but they did not want to pay any more for them. Therefore, the price had to come down. The intricacies of the design meant that the level of injuries that workers received in these factories was substantially higher. So part of the debate here is about how to engage the consumers in this. Part of it is about providing information, but the other part is to say that they cannot be exempt from the process. Yes, it is something for government and for business, but it is also something for consumers.

That very helpful meeting was triggered by the timely debate initiated at the end of October by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, which came out with perfect timing because the debate was on or around the day when the new clause was published in another place. Then we had the follow-up meeting and a helpful discussion about what could be done, and some very good ideas were generated there. A lot of those ideas are now working their way through the policy machine to be tested for feasibility, perhaps to come back at a later stage of the Bill.

A number of the points that were raised then are effectively about whether we should be prescriptive in the Bill or try to engage with the industry and business to make them aware of the risks that they face of reputational damage, in an age where often the biggest

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item on a balance sheet is not a physical asset but good will towards the brand, which disappears very quickly when you find yourself on the front page of a newspaper or in a TV documentary, having not checked your supply chain sufficiently. That is also a reason why investors, such as major pension funds and public sector pension funds, should be looking at the companies that they invest in and asking the question: are their supply chains robust and checked? We should look at that area.

Meanwhile, we are engaging in a consultation. I know that there are many consultations; it is a good job that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is not here or I think he would be intervening at this point. The reality is that it is a tough time out there for businesses and we want them to succeed and develop, so we want to try to take them with us as far as we can without being too prescriptive. We have been talking to a list of organisations and stakeholders, and it might be useful for the record to say that we are talking to the Ethical Trading Initiative—I know that that is something that the noble Lord, Lord Young, is involved in, as is the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, who has done a lot of work in this area—the British Retail Consortium, the Engineering Employers’ Confederation, the Association of Labour Providers, the CBI, high street retailers including Next, Primark and Marks & Spencer and supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-op. We have also been engaging with other NGOs, including Unseen and the Environmental Justice Foundation, as well as working with Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers. I think that it is useful to place on the record that meaningful consultation is going on here to see how we can get the changes that we all want to see.

That consultation will formally start next month and follow the usual guidelines that we now have for consultations. It will last for three months; therefore, we will probably not see its results until the Bill has—we hope—received Royal Assent. That is why it is phrased in the present format about regulations coming forward with regard to how that will be applied.

I turn to the specific questions. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked whether Clause 51 allows enforcement by way of injunction. So far in the Bill, I have learnt this much: when talking about matters legal, I had better take my own injunction and consult my colleagues at the Home Office in detail before responding on the record. I will respond in writing on that point.

The duties are a duty to prepare an annual slavery and human trafficking statement, and to publish it prominently on the organisation’s website homepage or, if it does not have a website, to provide a copy on request. It was that latter point that the noble Baroness referred to. Who is meant to see that? The many NGOs, which are doing terrific work in this area and being vigilant in monitoring organisations, trade unions and other organisations should all be paying attention to what that statement says and holding companies to account for it. Civil society and the media will also be able to look at it, and if it is not there then that raises another set of questions. The idea is to provide the information to the public domain in the first place and then allow people to scrutinise it further.

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My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked what role the Government were going to play in this. There are two constructive roles that the Government can have. The first is through the interdepartmental ministerial group on modern slavery. I mentioned this yesterday and listed the departments; the noble Baroness mentioned the Foreign Office in her remarks, but it goes much wider than that. It includes the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education. I will not go through the whole list.

7.45 pm

Lord Hylton: While the Minister is on the point about the interdepartmental group, will it recognise—I hope that it will—that British consumers have shown that they are willing to pay a higher price for an ethical product as a result of the fair trade campaign and fair trade labelling? Secondly, if I were a purchaser, which I am not, I would steer very clear of bricks made in Pakistan or matches made in India, knowing that many of them are produced by either bonded labour or child labour.

Lord Bates: Those are very good points well made. My home town, Gateshead, is the proud home to Traidcraft, which does tremendous work in this area doing ethically sourced coffees and foods, which are often a particular problem, but I do not want to get into advertising around Christmastime otherwise I will get into a whole other set of problems. Ultimately the consumer has great power here, although perhaps they do not realise it. In the same way that they have the power to drive down prices and standards around the world, they also have the opportunity to drive them up through their purchasing patterns.

The interdepartmental ministerial group is one part of this but I want to talk about another important part: what the Government can do. The Government can do more by putting their own house in order. The Government are a huge procurer—I do not know whether that is the right term—and a major purchaser of goods and services. It is important that we do everything that we can to prevent modern slavery from infiltrating our public sector supply chains. Taxpayers’ money should not be allowed to drive demand for these heinous crimes. That is why we are already taking concerted action on this issue. Individual departments have already taken clear steps. For example, the NHS standard terms and conditions for suppliers have clear conditions on labour standards in the NHS supply chain, and it has developed a labour standards assurance system that encompasses issues on forced labour.

The interdepartmental ministerial group on modern slavery will help to encourage best practice across the Government and the devolved Administrations. Home Office standard terms and conditions already require compliance with the law, which will of course soon include ensuring that suppliers have complied with our transparency and supply chain measure. We are also strengthening the labour standards section within our annual corporate social responsibility assessment in order to seek specific assurances from the Home Office’s largest suppliers that they have policies in place to address the risk of modern slavery. In addition,

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we are currently seeking ways to go further and require specific assurances from suppliers about steps that they are taking to stamp out modern slavery, which is an approach that we hope to then roll out across central Government. As a result, we are already proactively going beyond the measures in the Bill to address this issue. This is a bit like what we are asking people to do: to make a public statement and then be held to account for it. I wanted to put that on the record and expect to be held to account for it, being careful not to tempt fate too much. It is right that that is where we start.

With that rather longer than expected introduction, aware that we have two further groups to come in this area of consideration and having put those points on the record, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would accept that as a response on the Government’s position on his amendment and consider withdrawing it at this stage.

Lord Rosser: Before I do that, did the Minister early in his reply refer to coming back at a later stage or not?

Lord Bates: Coming back at a later stage to spell this out in greater detail?

Lord Rosser: Yes.

Lord Bates: I do not think I actually said that. I think I related it to the consultation. The Government’s position is: let us have a consultation, let us try to bring industry with us. The consultation will start in January, it will finish at the end of March and it will then be evaluated, so we will probably be beyond Royal Assent before that is available. That was in my statement. I may have alluded to the fact—this may have given rise to the confusion—that we will be coming back to this issue in subsequent groups in Committee today, but the consultation will extend beyond Royal Assent.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for clarifying that point and for his reply. I suppose one’s observation would naturally be that if the Government had put this in the Bill in the first place or had agreed somewhat earlier to Clause 51, the consultations could have been completed before the Bill had gone through all its stages in Parliament, and we might have been able to have a rather more meaningful debate. That is what happens when a Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to put something in a Bill as it went through its last stages in the House of Commons.

I am still not clear what the Minister is saying about what action can be taken if a commercial organisation produces the slavery and human trafficking statement but it is a bit thin or vague in its content. The Minister said that the measures under Clause 51(9), civil proceedings, would relate to whether the organisation had actually prepared the statement—which has nothing to do with the content—and published it on its website. It did not address the issue which I raised as to what would happen if the statement was a bit vague in its content. After all, the purpose of my amendment was to stipulate the areas that had to be addressed in the statement. The Minister has not really responded to that point.

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Surely, enough information needs to be required in the statement to enable a consumer, a voluntary organisation or the media to form a view on how well or otherwise a company is doing compared to other companies in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains or any part of its own business. Frankly, the Minister has not said anything to provide me with any comfort that the Government intend to include anything in the Bill that will ensure that the necessary information is provided to enable those meaningful comparisons to be made. In moving the amendment, I referred to the issue of guidance. The Secretary of State “may issue guidance”—it is not “must issue guidance”—which,

“may in particular include guidance about the kind of information which may be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement”.

We still have the problem: what action can actually be taken if the statement is produced and published but is a bit vague in its content and does not really enable the consumer, the voluntary organisation or the media to make a proper and effective assessment of the action that has been taken by that company, compared with other companies, to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place?

Lord Bates: I did not mean not to give the courtesy of addressing the specific amendment. We believe that it would be for civil society and the wider community to examine and assess whether a company’s statement on its supply chain is sufficient, rather than it being for the Government to do that. While trying to be courteous and respond precisely to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked a specific question about whether the anti-slavery commission might collect data on that. As worded within the anti-slavery commissioner’s remit, he can undertake research, consult, produce documents and engage in education and information. Of course, he is independent. I should have thought that a key part of that might be to consider transparency of supply chains.

Lord Rosser: I can only comment that it is very difficult for civil society to make a judgment if there is not enough information in the statements in the first place. There is no requirement, in my opinion—and there is nothing in what the Minister said to cause me to change my view—in Clause 51 to ensure that the necessary information is provided.

Still, I note what the Minister said in reply. I am obviously disappointed with it, as Clause 51 still does not go far enough and will not enable those judgments to be made by society, whether it be consumers, voluntary organisations, the media or others. That is a matter of regret. However, I note that that is the Government’s position and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 97AA withdrawn.

Amendments 97B to 97E not moved.

Clause 51 agreed.

Amendment 98

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

98: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—

“Slavery and human trafficking statements

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(1) For each financial year, a commercial organisation within subsection (2) must prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement.

(2) A commercial organisation is within this subsection if it—

(a) supplies goods or services, and

(b) has a total turnover in respect of that financial year of not less than £60 million or such lesser amount as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b) an organisation’s total turnover is to be determined—

(a) by reference to the activities of that organisation worldwide;

(b) by aggregating the worldwide turnover of that organisation with any other organisation which forms part of the same group undertaking; and

(c) otherwise in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.

(4) A slavery and human trafficking statement for a financial year is—

(a) a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to identify and address slavery and human trafficking—and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or

(i) in any of its supply chains, and

(ii) in any part of its own business,

and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or

(b) a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps with an explanation of why the organisation considers such conduct to be appropriate.

(5) A slavery and human trafficking statement shall give details of—

(a) actions taken to assess the risk of the presence of slavery and human trafficking in the organisation’s operations and throughout its supply chains;

(b) who has been involved in the assessment of such risks and the extent to which such persons are independent of the organisation;

(c) what risks have been identified, and what action has been taken to mitigate any risks which have been identified;

(d) whether any slavery or human trafficking has been identified and, if so, what steps have been taken to address it, including action to support victims;

(e) the extent to which information for assessment and monitoring has been gathered directly at suppliers’ sites and whether such information has been verified by independent persons; and

(f) any such other matters that may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section.

(6) The organisation must publish the slavery and human trafficking statement in each of the following ways—

(a) if the organisation has a website, it must—

(i) publish the slavery and human trafficking statement on that website, and

(ii) include a link to the slavery and human trafficking statement in a prominent place on that website’s homepage;

(b) upload the slavery and human trafficking statement report to the website maintained for that purpose by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under subsection (8);

(c) an organisation which is obliged to prepare a director’s report in accordance with section 415 of the Companies Act 2006 shall include in that report—

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(i) the name of any director who has taken responsibility for slavery and human trafficking issues within the organisation (or a statement that no director has taken responsibility),

(ii) a fair summary of the slave and human trafficking statement, and

(iii) the web address where a copy of the report may be found, or if the company does not have a website a statement that a copy of the report will be provided on written request.

(7) If the organisation does not have a website, it must provide a copy of the slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one and must do so before the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the day on which the request is received.

(8) The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shall maintain a website—

(a) on which it shall publish slavery and human trafficking statements which are uploaded to the website or delivered to it under subsection (6)(b);

(b) in a form in which the published data is freely searchable by the public.

(9) The Secretary of State—

(a) may issue guidance about the duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section; and

(b) must publish any such guidance.

(10) Evidence under subsection (9) may in particular set out the kind of information in addition or supplemental to that set out in subsection (5) which may be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement.

(11) The duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section are enforceable by any of the Secretary of State, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Financial Reporting Council; or such other person as may be specified by way of regulation, any of whom may bring civil proceedings in the High Court for an injunction or, in Scotland, for specific performance of a statutory duty under section 45 of the Court of Session Act 1988.

(12) Where a commercial organisation is in breach of any duty under this section the commercial organisation and every director, partner, or other person occupying an equivalent position shall have committed an offence.

(13) It is a defence for any person charged with an offence under subsection (12) to prove that he took all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with this section.

(14) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (12) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum and on conviction on indictment to a fine.

(15) This section shall be reviewed by the Secretary of State 3 years after the section comes into force and following this review the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report assessing the effectiveness of the section and recommending whether any amendments should be made.

(16) For the purposes of this section—

“commercial organisation” means—

(a) a body corporate (wherever incorporated) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom, or

(b) a partnership (wherever formed) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom,

and for this purpose “business” includes a trade or profession;

“group undertaking” shall have the meaning set out in section 1162 of the Companies Act 2006;

“partnership” means—

(a) a partnership within the Partnership Act 1890,

(b) a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, or

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(c) a firm, or an entity of a similar character, formed under the law of a country outside the United Kingdom;

“slavery and human trafficking” means—

(a) conduct which constitutes an offence under any of the following—(a) section 1, 2 or 4 of this Act, (b) section 57, 58, 58A or 59 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (trafficking for sexual exploitation), (c) section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (traffic in prostitution etc), (d) section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (trafficking for exploitation), (e) section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), (f) section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), or

(b) conduct which would constitute an offence in a part of the United Kingdom under any of those provisions if the conduct took place in that part of the United Kingdom;

“supply chain” means those raw materials, purchases, processes, products, labour, services and transportation by means of which the company’s goods and services whether or not for sale to customers are acquired, manufactured, assembled or otherwise produced from their original source up to and including their sale or provision to the company’s customers;

but a company’s supply chain shall not include those products and services that are acquired, rented, leased or otherwise used by a company for a purpose which is incidental or ancillary to the matters referred to in the definition of supply chain above.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, this is the second of three amendments that consider supply chains. It is an issue that I flagged up at Second Reading. The amendment emerged from a meeting which I chaired in this building with many of the charities and non-governmental organisations involved in this question. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Mobarik, and my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who are all signatories to the amendment. I also thank those Members of your Lordships’ House, some of whom are here this evening, who signed a letter to the Timeslast Saturday supporting the arguments outlined in the amendment—about 20 Members from all sides. On the same day, the Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 19 of the leading charities and non-governmental organisations, also supporting the proposal.

Inevitably, we want in the amendment to take the opportunity, while legislation is before your Lordships’ House, to tackle the problem, not to leave it, as the Minister said, to a consultation and review process, which can seem like the long grass. The Government have every reason to be very proud of the Bill. I welcome the fact that they introduced Clause 51—Part 6—at a late stage in another place, but clearly it was not subject to all the pre-legislative scrutiny that everything else in the Bill received. There was some, but not much, and it was not considered in Committee in another place. Therefore, we have a particular duty, while these issues are before your Lordships’ House, to spend some time on them. There are 16 subsections in the amendment, so I hope that the patience of your Lordships’ House, even at this late stage in our deliberations on the Bill, will not be too exhausted as I try to describe why so many Members and organisations outside the House feel that they are

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necessary. All the signatories of both letters I have mentioned welcome the inclusion of a new requirement for business to report on slavery and forced labour in their supply chains, but the provision must be strengthened if it is to drive real change in company supply chains.

8 pm

Part 6, and this amendment, should be read in the context of the International Labour Organization’s estimate that around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery, estimated to generate a profit of $150 billion every single year. Part 6 rightly recognises that we all have a responsibility—a point alluded to by the Minister in the earlier group of amendments—to encourage businesses to look deep into their supply chains to investigate the practices of their suppliers and subsidiaries and to then take action. That is why the Government have repeatedly emphasised that compliance with the transparency and supply chain measures will be driven by consumers, investors and campaigners.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said on the previous group of amendments, there is a temptation here simply to hope that it will be all right on the night. These amendments seek to provide real strength in putting into practice the sentiments which have been expressed by the Government. As currently drafted, neither the content of what is reported on, nor the location of the report are likely to produce the meaningful, accessible and comparable information that is so essential to take a proper view on how companies are tackling the risk of slavery in their supply chains. As it stands, the provisions will encourage superficial reporting, which is why the Ethical Trading Initiative, to which the Minister referred, the British Retail Consortium and many investors are demanding more specificity. Simply relying on follow-up guidance to fill gaps in the legislation is a doomed strategy, as only the leading companies are likely to pay heed to the guidance.

At present, there is no requirement on businesses to publicise what action they have taken to ensure that their supply and product chains are free from slavery. While some businesses are already taking positive action to address this issue, many clearly are not. I remind your Lordships that in 2013 a factory building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,130 workers at one site, highlighting the life-threatening conditions faced by garment supply chain workers in low-cost sourcing countries. It is just one example of the gap between industry codes and the real situation on the ground. My noble friend Lord Hylton reminded your Lordships of other examples, such as kiln workers making bricks in inhuman conditions in Pakistan and children manufacturing matches in India. There is a growing public expectation that businesses should act ethically and take action to ensure that forced labour does not occur in their supply chains or business practices.

The Government’s own Modern Slavery Strategy recognises the importance of addressing slavery in supply chains. Paragraph 6.24 says that,

“if we want to ensure that the UK plays no part in perpetuating modern slavery we must ensure that consumers here are not unwittingly creating demand for modern slavery elsewhere”.

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Paragraph 6.25 says:

“This will take a concerted, collaborative effort by Government and business, within the right regulatory framework”—

not consultations or reviews, but the right regulatory framework—

“We will ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern slavery, and then help them to stamp it out”.

Paragraph 6.27 says that,

“we are committed to introducing measures that specifically address modern slavery. We will use the Modern Slavery Bill to introduce a legal duty on all businesses above a certain turnover threshold to disclose each year the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery does not take place in their business or supply chains anywhere in the world”.

The strategy is right and the Government have articulated the need; the question is, does the legislation do it? Clearly, there is a real need for measures to tackle modern slavery in company supply chains. This is amply demonstrated by abuses and exploitation of workers in such places as the cotton mills of Tamil Nadu in India. The mills in that region supply high-street retailers such as C&A, Mothercare and Primark. The Flawed Fabrics report, published by the SOMO Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and the India Committee of the Netherlands in October, details many examples of forced labour abuses.

I suspect that my noble and right reverend friend, if he is able to speak a little later, will probably mention the situation he has regularly raised about the Dalits in India and say how many of those in the untouchable caste are doubly exploited because of the way in which they are used as forced labour and become part of these supply chains. That can include physical confinement in the work location, psychological compulsion and false promises about types and terms of work. The SOMO report also details trafficking abuses such as recruitment by deceit and by abuse of vulnerability, exploitative working conditions, coercion and abuse of vulnerability in the workplace.

The report highlights the severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Women and girls are mostly forced to live in hostels within the factory grounds. Rooms are shared by up to 35 people and the facilities are very basic. Toilets and bathrooms are shared by 35 to 45 workers. A local NGO reports that during recruitment some families were even shown photographs of the swimming pools that workers would be able to use—needless to say, these swimming pools did not exist. In the face of such stories, the Bill, as drafted, would not be effective, for the following reasons.

First, there is insufficient content in the Bill to deliver on what the Government have promised and desire. Secondly, there is a real risk that the Bill will not result in this issue being given the attention it deserves at the top of a company’s decision-making hierarchy. The reality is that slavery and forced labour in supply chains will need to be on the agenda and priorities of boardrooms if real and lasting change is to be achieved: this is the desire of many companies. Thirdly, there is no effective mechanism by which the provision will be monitored and enforced. Fourthly, there is no penalty for non-compliance.

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We should study with care the example of California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010. There is a great deal that we could learn from it. Indeed, this amendment seeks to build on the experience in California. Let me spell out the amendment’s provisions. Subsection (2) specifies a £60 million worldwide receipts threshold. This provides a consistent approach with the size and international nature of companies covered by the California Act, and is a similar provision to that which applies to companies operating in that state. Companies have expressed a desire for parity with California around the threshold level here in the United Kingdom. It also recognises the reality that large companies have the resources to do the initial heavy lifting, as it were. This experience will then be shared across business sectors and, over time, have application in smaller companies. Effective legislation will swiftly work its way down the procurement and subcontracting chain.

Subsection (3) introduces the term “group undertaking”, which allows for a definable aggregation of turnover. Subsection (4) proposes a modification of the Government’s wording, bearing in mind the reality of current corporate reporting and accountability mechanisms. The amendment requires a statement setting out the steps the organisation has taken to identify and address slavery and human trafficking in any of its supply chains or parts of its own business. It is vital to have minimum disclosure measures in the Bill because of the lack of transparency in many of the organisations which the requirement is designed to cover. Significantly, it is the business world which is calling for these minimum measures. I suspect that we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on that specific point. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, as I have already explained, support the principles that underpin this amendment. The amendment encourages companies to identify the process they have gone through in identifying and addressing slavery in their supply chains. Subsection (5)(f) provides flexibility and allows for further measures to be specified by order as required.

Subsection (6) addresses this by requiring companies to publish statements on their website and, crucially, to include within their directors’ report the name of the responsible director and a fair summary and the web address of the full statement. Subsection (6)(c) will help to propel responsibility for tackling slavery in supply chains into the boardroom, so that it is not just delegated to an employee charged with the remit of corporate social responsibility. Subsection (7) makes provision for organisations that do not have websites.

Subsection (8) proposes a centrally maintained website which will assist with monitoring of compliance and public accountability, with reduced costs to government through self-uploading of statements by companies. Subsection (11) is important and relates to enforcement of the requirement. As we heard during the debate on Amendments 67ZC and 68ZA, in the name of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, there is a strong feeling that the commissioner should have an oversight and monitoring role in relation to supply chains. In fact, the commissioner-designate himself has already said as much, as reported in the Financial Times on 17 November. He said:

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“Once they know they are being monitored … they will want to have clean supply chains … If they fail they will be exposed—and no company in the world wants to be shown as employing slaves”.

Last Sunday, 7 December, the Sunday Times reported that Nigerian boys are being lured to England with promises of riches from playing football in the Premier League but are being forced into slavery once they arrive. The commissioner-designate immediately said that he would travel to Nigeria to investigate the claim. The issue was raised by John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, at an anti-trafficking conference in London hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is clear that each of the specified organisations in Clause 11 may come across modern slavery issues, and it is important for there to be a direct enforcement route for any of them.

Clause 12 proposes a new criminal offence without which the measure would be completely toothless. Clause 15 provides for the requirement to produce slavery and trafficking statements to be reviewed three years after it comes into force, an issue that we will return to a little later in terms of post-legislative scrutiny. In Clause 16, there are a number of necessary definitions, most of which are existing government definitions. The definition of supply chains is new and would certainly benefit from discussion in your Lordships’ House.

Amendment 98 has the support of the business community. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, which between them represent many of the companies that would be caught by the requirement, have published a briefing note on the Bill. At Second Reading, I mentioned the support of Rathbones, which holds £96 billion-worth of investments. It wants an amendment like this in the Bill because it says that it would better safeguard its investors and mean that it would be far easier to effectively enforce the sentiments in the Bill. In calling for the anti-slavery commissioner to be responsible for monitoring compliance with the reporting requirement, the legislation would set clear minimum criteria for reporting and specify the penalty for non-compliance, among other things.

The amendment also has the support of a wide coalition of civil society organisations that have been working on this issue and which include corporate accountability, fair trade, development and anti-slavery groups, as shown by their letter to the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. Finally, it also commands support from all sides of the House. I therefore hope that the Minister is able to listen to and reflect on this consensus, and that between now and Report there will be a chance to consider this part of the Bill further, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was pressing in an earlier group of amendments. I have already spoken to the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and we have agreed that we will bring back the coalition of groups which came into the first meeting here. I hope that that may be an opportunity for the Minister to meet them and hear their arguments. I beg to move.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has set out the case in his usual full and very effective way, and I rise to speak briefly to support the amendment.

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I begin by addressing something that the Minister said at the beginning about consumers having a role and a responsibility here. I absolutely agree. If we pose the question of how consumers will be best educated and alerted to the issues, the answer is that it is by a good law. A good law is not one which just sets out certain generalities, but one that has some bite to it, some detail. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, stated so effectively on the previous group of amendments, however welcome it is to have Clause 51, there should be some requirement for more detail on the transparency statements and it should be possible for the general public and NGOs to have easy access to all these statements so that they can compare one thing with another.

The Minister talked about the discussions and dialogues which are going to take place with business. That is absolutely right because business has to be drawn along with this and to be fully supportive of it. I think the businesses involved would find it helpful to have a little more bite about this clause before they begin to think about how best to put it into practice.

I have a particular concern in this area, as already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as chair of the All-Party Group for Dalits because they suffer disproportionately in every aspect of trafficking and enslavement, particularly in this area of bonded labour and different kinds of exploitation. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able, after further consultation, to bring back a clause which has a little more bite to it. I think it would be warmly welcomed around the House. It may not require all the detail that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has, but perhaps the Minister could look at the amendment and the amendment put forward in the previous group by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about statements and see whether there are certain details that he would be able to take out and bring back to the House on Report.

8.15 pm

Baroness McDonagh (Lab): I shall speak to Amendment 98A and support Amendment 98. I start by declaring an interest as patron of the Lily foundation, an anti sex-trafficking charity operating in India and the UK. Is it not absolutely fantastic that we are here on all sides of the Chamber to support a Bill that we all want to see enacted? That is a very unusual occurrence. In that spirit of unity, I am pleased that this amendment is being supported by me and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick.

Our concern is that this clause on supply chains will turn out to be warm words and good intentions. Indeed, when assemblies all around the world have sought to phrase legislation in these terms, they have rarely been able to meet their objectives. If the Bill cannot meet its objectives, what then? That is what this small enabling amendment covers. It would allow the Home Secretary to intervene and require extremely large companies to risk assess, create an action plan and audit. We think this is a very simple thing to do and would welcome a meeting with the Minister to discuss it further.

Let me be clear about the companies to which this amendment would apply. I understand that the Government would be concerned if it were to apply to

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all companies. I understand that placing such a regulatory responsibility on SMEs would be extremely difficult. Indeed, our amendment would not even apply to large companies; it would apply to really large global entities, which are very specifically defined as companies with a turnover of £1 billion per annum. Not only that, there is a secondary locking qualifier, which is that they would be in the wholesale, retail, manufacturing and construction sectors, in which you find more people who are working in servitude in the supply chains.

I ask the Minister and the Government to accept this small enabling amendment. It is a safety net to ensure that all the hard work in tackling this terror will not have been in vain. If it is needed—and if the Bill does what is intended, it will not be needed—it will apply to a small number of companies. Behaviour change in the 124 companies which would qualify would have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people and would bring up the standards of all.

Baroness Kennedy of Cradley: My Lords, I support Amendment 98, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool.

The case for legislating for transparency in supply chains as part of the Bill has been well made and it is very welcome that it is being progressed by the Government through Clause 51. Now, as many noble Lords have said, the task is to get the detail of the legislation right and agree between us a well crafted clause that levels the playing field for business, informs investors, shareholders and consumers and drives change to end slavery in supply chains. I support Amendment 98 because it would do exactly that.

Amendment 98 would rewrite Clause 51 by adding, where necessary, elements of detail to ensure that it is more meaningful, effective and workable. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, in line with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came into force in 2012, the amendment defines the threshold as not less than £60 million and, most importantly, includes the term “group undertaking” when determining the total turnover. That is important because it allows multinational companies that may have small operations in the UK to be covered by this legislation.

We all want the Bill to have global reach. Therefore, having a way to ensure the inclusion of all large foreign companies that provide services to the UK is vital. Clause 51 is ill defined in parts and Amendment 98 seeks to correct that in a number of ways. First, it suggests a simple change in the language to make the intent of the clause explicit. In the Modern Slavery Strategy the Government make it clear that they want this legislation to ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern-day slavery through the annual statements they are required to produce. It is therefore important that that aim is made explicit in the Bill. Subsection (4)(a) is consequently amended to confirm that the statement is specifically to “identify and address” the issue of slavery and human trafficking. It is its primary aim.

It is also important that the remit of this statement is more tightly defined. The clearer this legislation is, the better for business and consumers alike.

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Subsection (5) of Amendment 98 provides a framework for the statements. It makes sure that minimum disclosure measures are included in the Bill: the need for risk assessments; the need to set out who has been involved in identifying the risks; what actions have been taken to mitigate the risks; and what has been the impact of those actions. The “how” should be left to guidance. Without those minimum criteria, as other noble Lords have said, comparisons between companies will be impossible to make and the level playing field desired by good businesses will be difficult to achieve.

We also need to look to and learn from the Californian Act and not repeat its mistakes. The learning from the application of the California legislation to date also shows us why it is necessary to be clear in the legislation about what you want to achieve and what you expect business to report. In California hundreds of organisations have issued statements in line with the Act, but there is a wide variation in the information provided in those statements. Some have disclosed meaningless information, some have disclosed misleading information, and a few—perhaps worst of all—have thwarted the legislation and disclosed that they do nothing and are indifferent to the issue of slavery in their supply chains. For example, Caterpillar Incorporated, a multinational company reported to hold $89 billion in assets, which manufactures its products and components in 110 factories worldwide in high-risk countries such as India and Indonesia, issued a woefully inadequate statement. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts issued a statement of just 182 words, using them to say that as regards slavery it does not verify product supply chains, conduct audits of suppliers or require direct suppliers to certify materials.

Getting businesses to produce statements of that kind is not what this part of the Bill is about, and I do not believe it is what the Government intended it to be about. Clause 51 is not a paper exercise for businesses to write down in 200 words or less that they do not do any of this kind of work and do not intend to start. It is a serious measure that we need businesses to engage in and which good businesses want to engage positively with, properly and on an equal footing with each other. It is not fair that the good businesses that do excellent work, actively searching for evidence of exploitation, are being undercut and undermined. That is why having minimum criteria in the Bill is vital. Setting out those minimum criteria would not make the task more burdensome for business; the task—the production of the statement—remains the same. Minimum measures just give a framework for the task so that a level playing field between businesses is achieved.

Proper monitoring is also vital and, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, it is not currently clear how this part of the Bill will be properly monitored and enforced. Amendment 98 seeks to address that, too. Again, if we look to learn from the experience of the Californian Act, here some companies have ignored the Act completely. Research in January of this year quoted 85 companies as ignoring the legislation. That level of disregard is unacceptable, and we should make sure it is not replicated in the UK. Amendment 98 also ensures that a named

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government department receives and makes sure that the statements are easily publically available. It ensures that there will be consequences for blatant flouting of the legislation—as we have seen in California—by companies that do not comply or refuse to comply. Most importantly, it makes sure that compliance with this clause is a corporate responsibility. You need leadership from the top to change attitudes and make things happen.

I also very much support the requirement for a review after three years, which is included in Amendment 98. This part of the Bill in particular, as it is a completely new area of work, would benefit from a re-evaluation over a specified time period. Formally being able to hear the views of businesses, NGOs, trade unions and consumers on how this legislation operates in practice, and committing to bring forward changes where needed, would be a positive step forward.

I hope that the Government can accept much—if not all—of what is included in Amendment 98 and that they will look seriously at Amendment 98A in the name of my noble friend Lady McDonagh. She has clearly set out the impact multinational corporations can have in the fight against slavery. The 124 companies to which she referred, which operate in high-risk sectors and which have a combined turnover of approximately $1 trillion, can clearly influence the working conditions in tens of thousands of workplaces and help many millions of workers across the world. The power of this small group of companies is huge. They have the power to reform their business models, insist on inspection regimes, support local efforts to empower workers and insist on decent wages and formal contracts for all workers here in the UK and across the world. Her amendment brings home to us that we cannot rid the world of slavery without the help of big business.

The provisions in my noble friend’s amendment would enable the economic strength of these companies to be a force for good—something they want to be and something we desperately need them to be. Many if not all those companies understand the reputational damage and loss of both consumer confidence and market share they will suffer if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers which use exploitative labour. Most companies want supply chains that reflect their brand, not brands that reflect their supply chains, so I am sure that, like Amendment 98, this amendment will not be seen as a burden but an advantage. I hope that both amendments and what they set out can be accepted by the Government.

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I am grateful to him for tabling it.

I have put my name to this amendment because it would do two important things. First, it will give businesses more certainty and clarity when producing the slavery and human trafficking statements required of them. That clarity is vital in saving businesses time. Secondly, however, it would also provide consumers with the information they need to hold businesses to account. Without the clarity that the amendment would provide, I am concerned that stakeholders, investors and campaigners will not be able to play their part

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effectively in helping stamp out the abhorrent practices that exist in some of our supply chains.

The media have done an excellent job in highlighting just how far slavery and forced labour have penetrated the supply chains for many of the goods and services that we take for granted, from basic foodstuffs to electronic goods, clothing and fashion. But modern slavery exists across the globe, and whichever form it takes, business supply chains are involved in some way or another. Slavery in supply chains is closer than we often realise. A couple of weeks ago, the owner of a bed factory in West Yorkshire that supplied retail chains such as Next and John Lewis was charged with human trafficking and slavery offences.

8.30 pm

I believe that it is not for government to keep legislating. One could say that we should deregulate in order to get the economy going. Indeed, we must work with private sector organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI, to take the lead in education within various industry sectors. However, when considering any new regulation to impose on business, we must answer three important questions: is it necessary, is it clear, and how much will it add to the bottom line?

On the first of these questions, I am left in no doubt as to the necessity of the amendment. It is rare for business groups and civil society organisations to reach common agreement on new regulation, but in this instance that is exactly what they have done. All are calling for minimum measures of disclosure, greater clarity in reporting, and tougher monitoring, enforcement and compliance. On the second question, the amendment would make it clearer for all those who have to produce these statements what they need to include, where the statements need to be lodged and what they can expect if they do not comply. Thirdly, I believe that the amendment would actually be good for business. It would help protect businesses, because constant stories about the failure of companies to monitor their supply chains will cause significant harm to their reputation and brand, and thus their bottom line.

Transparency in supply chains is the first step in the journey of rooting out slavery and forced labour from supply chains for good. The more explicit we can be at this stage, the more effective we will be over the long term. Both the Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium have written to me in support of the amendment. Their members include global companies with thousands of suppliers—familiar high-street brands such as Asda, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer—so their views on this issue should carry significant weight.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has indicated, there is a consensus across civil society groups as well as businesses that the amendment is needed, and that it would provide the information they need to play their part. I would also bring to noble Lords’ attention the fact that more than 20 asset management providers have added their support for the inclusion of supply chain reporting requirements in the Bill, including Hermes, Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Alliance Trust.

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I recently spoke with Katherine Garrett-Cox, the chief executive of Alliance Trust, who is a highly respected figure in the Scottish business community. She says:

“We have been passionate advocates of a greater level of transparency in the management of supply chains and believe that the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the way in recognising those that do this well—by rewarding companies that promote and practise strong values. As a leading investor we also believe that by focusing upon this critical topic, our industry will increasingly differentiate between good and poor practice and can rightly hold those who violate basic human rights in their business models to account”.

Finally, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Bates for all his efforts in steering this important Bill through the House, and ask him to bear in mind that Clause 51 has been added because there is a genuine effort on the part of the Government to progress this matter. I hope that he will be able to respond positively to the amendment, which I believe would make what is already a good Bill even better.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I will be brief. These two amendments are wider-ranging than my amendment but their intentions and objectives are similar, and I wait to see whether they will elicit a more enthusiastic government response. I also await the response to what I believe to be the request of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for discussions involving the Government on this matter before the next stage in the passage of the Bill through this House.

Lord Bates: I cannot quite match the noble Lord’s brevity, but I will try to go as far as I can, because some interesting proposals have been made. The first was the idea, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of reconvening, between now and Report, his group, including the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, on the issues of the supply chain. That would be a very helpful thing to do, and I would be happy to take part in it. The noble Lord talked about the process—the journey that we are on—starting when the new clause was tabled. Some may use the term “kicking and screaming”, but I think that a sinner who repenteth ought to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven—and into Parliament. I believe we are making progress down that route.

Many points were made about the regulatory framework, to which the noble Lord referred in great detail. The regulatory framework is setting out the long-term strategy. That is where we want to be. There are some stages to go through, in relation to the point made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He raised the desire to see more bite than there is at the moment. I cannot give any assurances that that will be there by the time the Bill reaches Royal Assent. However, by the time of the process of consultation is complete and the guidance has been issued—

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for giving way, but will he pay particular attention to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik? She spoke from the point of view of business and emphasised

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the fact that businesses would value greater clarity in what was being required of them in these statements and how they were to go about it. I felt that she was making a very important point from the point of view of business.

Lord Bates: I agree, and my noble friend Lady Mobarik made a very good point by making it clear that it is out of enlightened self-interest that business ought to be pursuing these things. We also need to recognise that we introduced into the Companies Act the requirement for ports to carry a statement on human rights. As with so many of the issues raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady McDonagh, this relates to human rights. You could almost say, without waiting for anything else, that the current legislation that requires a report on human rights could be broadened to include a statement on the human rights of the people involved in the supply chain. Those types of things might give urgency to it. On the assets idea, from my experience of business, nothing grabs the attention better of the chief financial officer, the chief executive or the chairman of the board and the people who invest. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, referred to about 20 institutions of the size of Hermes, which is a huge fund, and Rathbone. When they put weight on that, when they hold shares and hold votes to determine who is the chairman of the board and the non-executive directors and what the remuneration of the senior employees should be—that is precisely the type of group that will grab more attention for these important issues than possibly even more specific legislation.

I am conscious of time, but I am also conscious that I want to pay respect to the two tablers of the amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, with an undertaking to meet and continue the dialogue; and to give an assurance that we will do further work, if or when we meet between Committee and Report, when we will have the terms of reference for the consultation to look at. We can get some early responses to that and see what can be done further to reassure the noble Lord that the Government see this very much as a way of starting down the road. As with all these things, business should be aware that once you start putting down legislation such as this, it tends to be a one-way street. You do not go back. If people do not comply and if business does not take it seriously, this Government or future Governments will say that there is a demand and that they need to act to put more legislation down for businesses to comply with. So I hope, with that canter around the issues, but with some specific commitments to look carefully at this, that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister has been generous in how he has dealt with the issues that have arisen, especially at this late hour. I was struck that he talked about how sinners repenteth, when I was thinking more that Ministers are damned if they do and damned if they do not. I am personally appreciative of the fact that the clause is now in the Bill and, of course, it is incumbent on noble Lords to try to build on provisions in the amendment.

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One might use another metaphor about the bird in hand. On this occasion there is a Bill in hand, and a legislative opportunity. We cannot come back in another year from now with legislative proposals. This is the time to make them and I do not think that any of us wants to feel that the moment has passed without our doing justice. I reiterate that, because this is something that came into the Bill so late in another place, it is something to which, outside your Lordships’ House, we should give more time and attention. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, Lady McDonagh and Lady Mobarik, as well as my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth for the contributions that they have made in supporting the principles that underpin this and the other amendment before your Lordships. I am also grateful for the Minister’s willingness to meet those who tabled the amendments and the large array of those involved in this issue.

The Minister said that the important thing was to grab the board’s attention to get them thinking about these things. He is right about the power of investment and resources. I was very struck that Matt Crossman at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, which has more than £900 billion of investment, said:

“It is in the best interests of business to join the fight against modern slavery … Specific, but proportionate, legislation can allow companies to continue making progress, whilst ensuring that firms can no longer turn a blind eye to these issues”.

Naheeda Rashid of Hermes, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, said:

“Companies which are able to demonstrate that they understand and are actively addressing the complexities of the risks in their supply chains will be better placed in managing both their reputation and disruptions to their operations”.

That is what these amendments seek to do—they put real flesh on the bones of Clause 51. I hope that, when the House resumes after the Christmas break, we will have a chance to hold the meetings to which the Minister referred. I hope that Report will not be reached for some weeks, which gives us some time to do that. With the assurances that the Minister has given us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 98 withdrawn.

Amendment 98A not moved.

Amendment 99

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool